“The work of a nation. The center of intelligence.”
When people think about the Second World War, they seldom think in terms of silence and small acts. This was a war in which the industry of entire nations was rearranged to feed fighting, and it was fought on a scale in which battles could include hundreds of thousands of combatants. Whole cities and populations were destroyed, with millions of casualties occurring at places like Leningrad.
But World War II was also a conflict in which modern covert operations first hit their stride. From the jungles of Burma to the streets of Paris, spies, saboteurs, and commandos carried out missions built on secrecy and cunning. Precise, self-contained operations could be as important to the outcome of the war as acts of massive destruction, whether it involved targeted assassinations, sabotaging key logistics, or counterintelligence to break up the enemy’s own rings. At the time, most of these operations were hidden from the public since that was the only way they could be successfully carried out, but in the years since, stories about various missions have emerged. They paint a picture of incredible courage and ingenuity, whether in war zones or enemy territory or far from the front lines.
Though it might be hard to believe, the Americans did not have a covert operations organization when they joined World War II, and like the British, it took them some time to realize it could be a powerful tool. As a result, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was not established until June 13, 1942, six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Voices within the Pentagon, State Department, and White House all opposed the establishment of this new and untested organization that would carry out activities normally considered unacceptable, so officials within the OSS had to fight for the very existence of the organization, battling through layers of bureaucracy to get the resources he needed and ensure its independence of action. They also worked hard to justify the use of covert tactics in warfare, to the extent that its leader, William “Wild Bill” Donovan, cited precedents that stretched back to the Bible.
The OSS and CIA: The History of America’s Intelligence Community during World War II and the Establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency looks at the agencies’ organizational characteristics, historical inception, early Cold War growth, and recent influence. You will learn about the OSS and CIA like never before.